- 28 May 12
Stripped-down and intimate the new record from Canadian country singer Rose Cousins is about as far from the bland Nashville sound as is possible.
Rose Cousins comes from Prince Edward Island, about as off-piste as it gets. She now lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, not quite a heaving metropolis either.
Like a lot of people from out of the way places she has a gift for forming strong friendships and isn’t afraid of travelling a distance to get together with the people who are important to her. I’ve always found that, almost counter-intuitively, city folk can be depressingly insular, while those from the tiniest rural communities are attuned to the breathing in and the breathing out of the whole world. Which is a very roundabout way of saying that, for her new record, We Have Made A Spark, she relocated to Boston, because that’s where the players she wanted to work with were gathered.
She has been washing up there from time to time for a number of years now and has built up a community of musical friends, associates and kindred spirits, including singers and musicians like Laura Cortese and Kris Delmhorst. Most of the contributors are also busy touring musicians – a couple with Josh Ritter’s touring ensemble – and the window to make the record was short. She sent solo demos around in advance but admits that some of the participants probably turned up at the studio without having listened to them.
Such spontaniety is to the record’s advantage. It has none of the awful sameness that haunts the music you hear out of Nashville, where a good song can get smothered in cliché. Maybe it’s because her writing is quite personal and doesn’t fall into the standard ruts.
Anyway, it’s quite a downbeat affair with the possible exception of the jaunty opener ‘The Darkness’, which despite the preponderance of banjo, sounds like something Gillian Welch might have written and sung. That out of the way, the record settles into an edgy, contemplative tone. There’s a stretch in some of the songs that pulls something cinematic out of very limited instrumentation.
Seosaimhín Ní Bheaglaoich, Siân James and Mary MacMaster come together for what promises to be an atmospheric tour celebrating the shared musical traditions of the native-language communities of Ireland, Wales and Scotland. They’ll be performing achingly beautiful lullabies and heart-rending love songs, leavened with some humorous tunes. Siân James, born in a small Welsh-speaking village in Powys, has been hailed the finest singer and harpist of her generation. Steeped in the traditions of the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht and a founder member of Ireland’s first all-female traditional band, Macalla, Seosaimhín Ní Bheaglaoich is renowned for her interpretations of both Irish and English songs from her native west Kerry. The Celtic connection is completed by Scottish harpist Mary MacMaster. The tour, which kicked off at the Coach House, Dublin Castle, on Tuesday May 15, continues in Tipperary’s Excel Centre, (17) before visiting Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge (18), Ionad Cultúrtha, Baile Mhuirne (19), Áras Eanna, Inis Oirr on the Aran Islands (21) and Ionad Cois Locha, Dunlewey, Donegal (22).
Rhode Island’s biggest export since HP Lovecraft, The Low Anthem, are coming ever closer. In Europe for some festivals in early June, it was always on the cards that they might wend their way here. Now they’ve confirmed three dates. The group have been firm favourites in Belfast since they made their debut in 2010 at the Open House Festival as openers for Iron & Wine. They returned in 2011 after the release of Smart Flesh to open for Fleet Foxes. Now the Open House festival is promoting their first headline show in Belfast at the Empire Music Hall Thursday June 14. They also play Whelan’s (15) and Galway’s Roisin Dubh (16) before decamping to continue their wanderings on the European mainland.
A little further off, Music Network – in association with RTÉ lyric fm – will be presenting Lá Ceoil, a free showcase concert in Dublin’s Meeting House Square on Thursday, June 21, which will see performances from Buffalo In The Castle, We Banjo 3, The Unwanted, Tarab, Mick O’Brien, members of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and the DIT Traditional Music Ensemble. The special guest is Seán Mac Erlaine and there will be the première of a commission by RTÉ lyric fm composer in residence Linda Buckley. Looking at Ireland’s indigenous music through the eyeball of old-time American folk, orchestral scores, contemporary compositions, electronic interpretations and new world fusions, Lá Ceoil demonstrates how traditional Irish music has cultivated new genres and continues to experiment with musical synergies.